CORPUS CHRISTI: Body and Blood of Christ





Understand the difference: Transubstantiation; Tran-signification; trans-finalization; Catholic belief in Real Presence and transubstantiation (Term from St. Thomas Aquinas).

Why bread and wine:
  1. Creator God is also the provider God, provide food and sustenance to the creation (also protector and the facilitator): in the desert: manna and water. Parents who bring up children have also similar responsibility.
  2. Food; sacraments from bread, water, oil, wine; daily necessities; grace is built on nature
  3. We never forget to eat: Nothing becomes so biologically part of us. We become what we eat. Junk food, not caring for God's creation. Bodies neglected. Abortion, old people, children abandoned. Our younger years are spent losing health to make wealth and our older years are spent losing wealth to get health.
  4. Food is nourishment (energy), life, growth and gives joy and is eaten in fellowship, Companion = the one who breaks bread with me (Latin meaning) Food is best taken in fellowship: companion; sharing
  5. Food should be eaten as a family. Unity
  6. It takes sacrifice to prepare it
  7. Many ingredients to make it; complementing
  8. Food has to be broken down to assimilate or digest – process of breaking
  9. How can we each become Eucharistic people? Don’t adore and worship hours bodies – naked, vulgar  - on the screens of computer and TVs, but a little times with the Lord in the Eucharist …
  10. Each sacrifice is an expression of becoming body & blood. We live by what we get, but we give life by what we give.
  11. Social Dimension: Aren't we surprised on Holy Thursday to note that the reading was not the institution of the Eucharist, but washing of the feet. Again today, the context was the multiplication of the loaves. We become what we eat. We become part of the mission of Jesus. It's about mercy and justice.
TK

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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration 

Since the very first days of the church — before St Paul had set out on his journeys or any of the gospels were written — our brothers and sisters have been gathering every week for this sacred meal. But when we routinely do anything, we often lose sight of just how wonderful it is. So today we are reflecting on just how wonderful it is to be called by the Lord to gather in his presence, to be his guests at his table, and to eat and drink from his wonderful bounty. In this banquet we become one with Christ, and are transformed into being his Body, and his Blood flows in all our community’s veins, giving us the strength to be his witnesses in the world and to inherit the life that never ends. 
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Michel de Verteuil
General comments

Earlier in this same chapter of St John’s gospel, Jesus presented himself to the people as”bread come down from heaven.” Here he pushes the metaphor further: he gives them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. 

You may find the metaphor strange, but you should try to enter into it so that it becomes part of your prayer. Remember that in Bible meditation it is not sufficient to get the message of a passage; you must get into the words themselves and grow to love them so that you feel moved to repeat them many times. 

The metaphor has its origins in “flesh and blood”, a biblical expression that means the reality of a human being with special stress on his or her weakness or limitations. For example, when in Matthew 16 Peter made his act of faith, it did not come from “flesh and blood,” but as a gift from     God.  So too St Paul warned the Ephesians that their struggle was not merely against “flesh and blood”, but against heavenly forces. 

Therefore, when Jesus says that he gives his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, he  is saying three things.

 - The first is that he gives himself totally to others; every part of his being is at their service; it is the same as saying, “This is my body, given for you.”

- Secondly, he is inviting people to deep union with himself, to “have his spirit coursing through their souls so that they can know the passion of his love for every one,” as we sing in the hymn  “To be the Body of the Lord.”

- Thirdly, he wants them to unite their weakness and their sufferings with his, so that they can experience his strength and his courage. As he would say to them at the Last Supper, “In the world you will have trouble, but be brave, I have conquered the world.” When we eat his flesh and drink his blood, our own flesh and blood are ennobled. St Paul says in 2 Corinthians: “We carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus too may always be seen in our body.” 

The passage is therefore a meditation on Jesus as teacher, leader and guide. In all three roles he does not stand outside of people, he wants to share their lives and to have them share his.

 Now this tells us something about God; whereas we tend to imagine God in heaven looking down on us but not getting involved in the movement of our history, Jesus shows God entering into flesh and blood with us. 

But the passage also tells us about human relationships. In your meditation remember with gratitude people who have been Jesus for you – a parent, a spiritual guide, a friend, a national leader. Naturally you will feel the passage calling you to growth in your relationships. 

Finally a good meditation on this passage will help you to appreciate the Eucharist. It will show you why Jesus chose to be present in the Church under the form of bread and wine.

 To meditate deeply on this passage, take one section at a time and enter into it, letting it speak to your experience. I suggest the following divisions: 

- Verses 51 and 52: the people are questioning the very possibility of someone giving

 himself totally, as Jesus claims to do. Their response is cynical, but is it not typical of the way many would respond today?

 - Verse 53 invites us to think of people who have no life in them, and to go to the root

 cause: they have never experienced, or perhaps never let themselves experience, the kind of selfless love that Jesus gives.

 - Verse 54 introduces a theme that appears several times in this chapter: deep relationship with God in Jesus lifts us up beyond the limitations of time and history.

 - In verse 55 we remember that there is false food and drink and to recognize them we can look at what relationship with Jesus does to us.

 - Verse 56 teaches us the effect of love, the love of Jesus, as well as of all those who love selflessly.

 - In verse 57 we see another effect of selfless love. Here, as frequently in St John’s

 gospel, Jesus’ relationship with his followers is similar to his relationship with his Father – “As the Father has sent me so I am sending you; as the Father loves me so I have loved you.”

- In verse 58 we see again the theme of the newness of Jesus’ teaching. 

Prayer reflection 

Lord, we remember with gratitude the day when we realized for the first time
 that following Jesus meant eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

 Up to then it was a matter of believing abstract truths -
 that Jesus was truly God and truly man,
 that there were three persons in God and seven sacraments.
 That kind of faith was not a source of life for us.

 Then one day we knew that we had to lay down our lives
 - caring for a wayward child;
 - working for reconciliation in the work place and being attacked by both
 workers and employees;
 - forgiving someone who had hurt us deeply.
 At that moment we knew that Jesus on the cross was present within us,
 and the strange thing was that we felt an inner strength and freedom.
 and we were certain that no matter how low we fell he would raise us up. 

Lord, self-centeredness has become like a first principle of living today.
 People will argue with one another that it is not possible for us
 to give our flesh to be eaten,
 and yet there can be no life in the world without selfless giving,
 not in nature, not in families, not in any society.

Lord, we pray for those who are mourning for a loved one.
 Remind them that Jesus gave them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink
 and he will raise them up on the last day.

“I should like to set down here my own belief. In so far as I am willing to be made an instrument of God’s peace, in that far have I already entered into eternal life.”  Alan Paton 

Lord, we thank you for those who eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus
 and therefore already have eternal life.

“We need the eyes of deep faith to see Christ in the broken bodies and dirty clothes under which the most beautiful one among the sons of men hides.”   Mother Teresa

Lord, help us to receive Jesus when he comes to us in flesh and blood.
Lord, you give us food and drink so that we might live more freely and creatively.
 Yet we nourish ourselves with many things that are not life-giving at all,
 but rather clutter up our lives and keep us in bondage.
 We pray that your Christ may be Jesus today, giving the world real food and drink.

Lord, we thank you for the people who have touched our lives;
 when we read the story of Jesus, we see them living in him,
 and when we remember their stories, we see Jesus living in them.
 Truly they have eaten his flesh and drunk his blood. 

Lord, we speak too much when we pray.
 Teach us to remain silent
 so that we become conscious of Jesus present within us
 and the life he draws from you may well up in us too. 

Lord, we think today of those who see their spouses destroying themselves
 with bitterness, envy and false pride.

 With anguish in their hearts, they say to them,
 as Jesus said to his followers,
“Unless you allow yourself to receive my selfless love,
              you will not have life within you.” 

Lord, we pray for the people of South Africa, Ireland,
 Afghanistan, and East Timor.
 For generations, their ancestors have eaten the bread of suspicion,
 fear and hatred, and they are dead.

 We thank you that you are raising up new leaders in those countries,
 and they, like Jesus, are offering their people a different kind of nourishment,
 based on reconciliation and sharing,
 bread come down from heaven,
 so that they can eat it and live. 

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Homily notes 

1. Words should help us to draw out;the significant in our lives. Words should be the seeds of meaning within us and between us. Words should be precious in letting us see the wonder and goodness of the Father. 

2. Unfortunately, words also can obscure reality for us. They can bury us under so many layers of accumulated confusions that we struggle to see what is really important. In a communications age, words can be the vehicles of disinformation like never before and can confuse the chasm that should exist between the genuine, the true, the important, and the illusions of salesmen, marketers, and spin-doctors. Words also can so fascinate us with their own magic that we fail to move beyond them to the realities they exist to highlight for us. Words should be illuminating, but they are often like a fog, and indeed sometimes a smokescreen separating us from reality. 

3. What has this to do with the Eucharist? Well, the Eucharist is a sacrament, a sign, a mystery; and as such it should convey meaning and truth and authenticity and life. And so it always involves words: words, firstly, in the actual celebration, the words of thanksgiving and prayer to the Father that justify the name of ‘The Eucharist’; and, words too that talk about what we are doing, explaining our actions to ourselves and to others. These words of explanation and exploration of meaning are what we call’ theology’. We see the process right from the start of the Christian journey: each week the community gathered and in its eating and drinking offered its prayer of thanksgiving. Then we see theologians explaining why this is significant: firstly, Paul writing to the Corinthians explaining it in terms of becoming one with the Christ, then the Didache in terms of the final banquet of the re-gathered Israel, then Mark explaining it in terms of a pre-existing understanding of the Passover (and in explaining a weekly meal in terms of an annual meal leaving a theological time bomb that went off in Calvin’s hands 1400 years later!), then John in terms of the manna in the desert, and on and on and on until we reach some of the books on the Eucharist that are on your shelves or the pamphlets in the church’s bookrack. 

4. But today we face a problem with all these words. For many the words about the Eucharist make no sense. The gathering makes no sense; its does not enhance their grasp of life or of the goodness of God. Just think of these two facts. First, English and Welsh hierarchy figures for Mass attendance showed a fall of 130,000 between 2002 and 2005. People are expressing their ‘theology’ (i.e. their understanding of what we are doing, whether it is an adequate theology or not) with their feet. Second, the fastest growing Christian groups are the evangelical churches where the Eucharist is not considered central or significant (and which in some groups is even considered superstitious). Yet the statisticians point out that between 25% (Catholics bishops’ figures) and 33% (the evangelical missionaries’ figures) of South Americans now for­mally call themselves ‘Evangelicals’ as distinct from ‘Catholics’. And, this is a pattern of movement that is not confined to Latin America. When we consider the centrality of this meal, since the very first days of the church, that was the bonding force of the little groups with their Lord whose resurrection they proclaimed, then the poverty of such a jejune (literally) non-Eucharist centred theology cannot but be a cause of sadness. 

5. That the Eucharist and its language are seen as meaningless, boring, or irrelevant either to life in general or the life of discipleship is, of its nature, a complex problem with many causes; and it is possible that it is beyond our ability to do anything about most of these causes. However, some parts of the problem are of our making and can be addressed. One of these is that many celebrations obscure the basic and original structure of this gift that Jesus gave us. This obscuring takes place in that we concentrate on all the various levels of meaning that have accumulated over the centuries such that participants cannot experience the answer to that constant human question: ‘What’s this about?’ – nor can teachers give a concise explanation that might answer that question. Such accumulations of secondary issues are a normal part of human life and the constant bane of every group activity, and so common is it that we have the classic image of ‘the tail wagging the dog’ to describe the problem. In the case of the Eucharist this can take many forms: the celebration becomes primarily linked to the availability of a priest rather than the needs of a community; it becomes a teaching session and prayer service plus getting Holy Communion rather than the Lord’s Banquet; the questions of who can or cannot receive become the central issue – and for a great many people this is the sole question that concerns them about the whole affair ­rather than encountering the risen Christ; the Eucharist (the name for an action) becomes subsumed under the notion of Holy Communion (a commodity) or the Blessed Sacrament (an object); and for many, priests included, it is hard to think of ‘sacrament’ as the name of an activity of a group rather than of a ‘something’ usually had by an individual. 

6. So what can one do to address the problem? The starting point is to remember that the Eucharist is the collective meal of the community of the baptised. So why not meet for the Eucharist on this day in the community hall rather than the church building? Then stand around for the whole event rather than be formally lined up in the way one might for a class or a meeting where discussion is dominant. This is a gathering, an assembly, a celebration of who we are in Christ, not a meeting to transact business. Recall the gathering at some ‘reception’, people stand and mingle, they get to know each other, they recognise they have a common reason for being there: they are not seated in rows. Then they can gather around a single table that is the Lord’s. Words like ‘altar’ are secondary: they derive from a second century attempt to explain what we are doing as we gather at the one table. It was basic to the message of Jesus that there was a welcome at his table, there was room there for the poor, the outcasts, the strangers, the sinners, and unloved. This gathering of those who are reconciled and given new life (i.e. the baptised) is the pattern for the whole life of the church, both now and eschatologically. So everyone should be able to gather around that table, and know they have as much right to stand there at the Lord’s invitation as the mob of concelebrating priests one sometimes sees huddling round it. A decent-sized dining table, that is still clearly recognisable as such (i.e. not covered to make it look like’ an altar’), is ideal. It is also worth recalling those lines from Eucharistic Prayer I (which date from the time before we had formal churches) that say: ‘Remember your male servants (famulorum) and your female servants (famularum), indeed, the needs ofall who are standing around.’ 

Then we come to the basic activity of thanking the Father in Jesus. We often recite this as if its purpose was to ask God to consecrate elements on the table (and as such it becomes the skilled work of the priest alone). Presented in that light there is little adequate answer to the question someone asked me after the Eucharist recently: why does the priest not get all this done before-hand so that it is ready to give to us after the readings? It is strange how the culture of fast-food outlets matches the old practice of ‘Mass and Communion (from the tabernacle, of course)’. So there has to be attention to the tone of the Eucharistic Prayer that it is recited as prayer directed to the Father thanking him for all he has given us in his Son. Use Eucharistic Prayer II as it is crisp and its theology elegant, and note that in the Missal of Vatican II there are no ‘words of consecration’, but an ‘institution narrative’ – there lies the core of the renewed theology of the council and it has major implications for how the Eucharistic Prayer is voiced at every celebration. We are recalling the Last Supper as part of our prayer and so justifying why we are now praying in this way (this recollection format is part of every collect: we praise the Father because of something that has occurred) not pronouncing a sacral formula. After all, in the final analysis, it is the gathered people that must be consecrated to become the body and blood of Christ. 

Then we come to the basic form of the meal: Jesus used a single loaf from which each received a share, and passed around a single cup from which each drank. This is the basic symbolism of this particular meal: a common life as one body which is Christ (the one loaf), and a common destiny (see Mk 10:38-9; Jn 18:11) which is in Christ (the one cup). This eating and drinking by the gathering is, of its nature, a confusing and lengthy business, but that is fine. After all we are there to engage in just that activity. 

7. This is a radical way to celebrate this feast (and the homily would be to point out that we are doing it this way to remind ourselves on this day of our eucharistic basics. There will be those who object, threaten to go the the next parish where the priest is sound, and indeed some who write to the bishop (or further afield) to ‘just let him know what’s happening’. This is, in every community, a well identified and easily quantified group and so they receive a lot of attention lest they be upset; however, that other group who are just drifting away without a word are not easily identifiable and are only quantifiable through statistics. In addressing those who day by day are being lost to the Eucharist, I suspect there is some guidance in Mt 18:12-3. 

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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection 

On the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, it is appropriate to reflect on three essential Catholic teachings about the Eucharist: the link between the Eucharist and the Church, the Eucharist as sacrifice, and the Eucharist as Real Presence. 

First, there is an intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the Church. Sharing the Eucharist requires belonging to the Church and vice versa. Understanding such a relationship between the Eucharist and the Church, which is central to Catholic teaching, has serious implications for people who receive Holy Communion. 

There is a necessary connection between what Catholics do when they assemble for the celebration of Mass and what they do as members of the Church in other aspects of their daily lives. If they do not perceive such a connection, then it is probable that there will be many areas of inconsistency with gospel values and Catholic doctrine in their lifestyles. 

The Church is most truly itself when it celebrates the Eucharist. But this truth presumes a unity between what Catholics say they believe and how they live. So faith and morality are inextricably bound up and we need to live in religious and moral harmony with the Church if we are to celebrate the Eucharist authentically. 

The reception of Holy Communion implies that a person is in full communion with the Catholic Church and its beliefs. Receiving Communion is a sign of unity in faith and love with both the local church (and the local bishop) and the universal Church (and the Pope). While there are members of other ecclesial communities — various other Christian denominations seeking to follow Christ — who often wish to receive Holy Communion in Catholic churches and who argue that, because of our common belief in the divinity of Christ, we are, in a sense, in communion, the Catholic Church teaches that this communion is imperfect because it is incomplete. Hence there is genuine difficulty about Eucharistic sharing between Catholics and other Christians. But this does not deny that elements of holiness and truth are evident in other Christian communities. 

Secondly, the Eucharist is a sacrifice. When the Eucharist is celebrated, the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ becomes effectively present for his people who are members of his Body, the Church. In describing the Eucharist as a sacrifice, the Catholic Church is not — as many other Christian traditions have often interpreted — denying the unique saving work of Jesus Christ when he died on Calvary. 

There is a need for a renewed emphasis on the sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist among Catholics because such an understanding is at the very heart of the Eucharist. Traditionally, the Eucharist has never been understood merely as a service. No service can replace the sacrifice of the Mass. This is because the sacrifice of the Mass is the unbloody re-presentation of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary. 

Thirdly, Catholic faith accepts that the ‘real’ and ‘substantial’ presence of Christ is found in the Eucharist in the sense that the Eucharist is the supreme form of Christ’s presence and his inner reality. This belief that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, that there has been a change in the substances of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, provides the basis and the imperative for adoration of and reverence for the reserved Blessed Sacrament. This is why Catholics are exhorted to spend time praying before the Blessed Sacrament. 

Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Bread that has come down from heaven to give life to the world (see Jn 6:51). Whoever eats the Bread of Life will have eternal life. 

How do we deal with this basic Catholic teaching about the Eucharist? The teaching of the Church is the teaching of Christ. Can we, therefore, accept and believe the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist? The Church teaches that the Eucharist is the summit of the Christian life. It is appropriate, then, when receiving Holy Communion, to repeat the prayer of one of the multitude following Jesus: ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have’ (Mk 9:23).

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REFLECTIONS: 

1.     From the Connections: 

THE WORD:

Today’s celebration of the Body and Blood of the Lord originated in the Diocese of Liege in 1246 as the feast of Corpus Christi.  In the reforms of Vatican II, Corpus Christi was joined with the feast of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord.  We celebrate today Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as the Church.

In the “bread of life” discourse in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ revelations concerning his Messianic ministry take on a Eucharistic theme.  The image of Jesus as “bread from heaven” echoes two dimensions of the same First Testament image: the wisdom of God's Law nourishing all who accept it and God's blessing of manna to feed the journeying Israelites. 

HOMILY POINTS:

The gift of the Eucharist comes with an important “string” is attached: it must be shared.  In sharing the body of Christ, we become the body of Christ.  If we partake of the “one bread” (Reading 2), then we must be willing to become Eucharist for others -- to make the love of Christ real for all.

Our coming to the table of the Eucharist is even more than just reliving the memory of Christ’s great sacrifice for our redemption -- in sharing the Eucharist we re-enter the inexplicable love of God who gives us eternal life in his Son, the Risen Christ.

In celebrating the Eucharist, we make our parish family’s table the Lord’s own table, a place of reconciliation and compassion.

“The Man Who Planted Trees”

There is a French tale about an old man who lived in a deserted, barren plain between the Alps and Provence.  After the death of his wife and son, the story goes, the old man erected a small cottage for himself and tended a small flock of sheep.  Every summer day he would gather as many acorns as he could find.  Later that evening, he would examine each one and put aside one hundred perfect acorns.  The next day he would go out to a particularly barren place many miles away.  He would pound the iron rod he carried into the ground to make a hole and bury an acorn.  Every day he planted a hundred acorns.  Of those he planted, about a fifth sprouted and grew into magnificent oak trees.
 
The land was not his; he did not know who owned it nor did he care.  His concern was bringing life to this desolate, forgotten place.

Within ten years, his first ten thousand trees were as tall as he was.  He began a small nursery of seedlings he had grown from beechnuts; soon beautiful birch trees were taking root in his forest.  The wind dispersed seeds, as well.

He had planted his trees in valley bottoms where he guessed, correctly, that there was water close to the surface.  As the years went by, water began to flow again in stream beds that had been dry for hundreds of years.  As the water reappeared, so too did willows, osiers, meadows, gardens and flowers.  Birds and deer and animals of every kind made their home in the new forest.  Soon, the long ruined towns nearby were rebuilt by young families drawn to the beauty of the region.

The transformation took place so slowly that nobody noticed.  The French government eventually assumed responsibility for the care of the forest, which they believed had come about “naturally.”

But it all had sprung up from the hand and vision of this one shepherd who, over four decades, quietly and compassionately transformed this desert into the land of Canaan.  It was work worthy of God.

[From The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono.]

The old shepherd’s kindness, humility and patient hope are the very life of God.  It is this life that Jesus offers his Church in the bread of compassion.  Christ calls us not only to consume but to be consumed by the “bread of life” — we become part of the Risen Christ and he becomes part of us.  To live in Christ, to feast on the “bread of life,” is to look beyond our own self interests and wants and hurts to bring Christ’s love, justice and hope into our own barren and desolate forests.  In inviting us to feed on his “flesh” and drink of his “blood,” we become what we receive: the life that finds joy in humble servanthood to others, the life that is centered in unconditional, total, sacrificial love; the life that seeks fulfillment not in the conventional wisdom of this world but in the holiness of the next.  May we seek our sustenance not in the perishable and fleeting but in the “bread” that is Christ, the bread that makes us bread for one another, the bread that is the sacrament of unity, peace and reconciliation.    

2.     Rev. Ted Martin 

Food for the Journey to Eternal Life
 

Purpose: The desert of this life’s journey is filled with affliction, difficulties, and trials. The Hebrew people were guided through the vast and terrible desert with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground, by a God of the promise, who “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (I Cor 10:13). The Most Holy Eucharist gives us a participation in the Body and Blood of Christ; we share in the fruits of a sacrificial love which overcomes death, and which makes us sons and daughters in the Son. It is the Most Holy Eucharist which:  1. Gives us strength to live in fidelity to the new commandment of love;  2. Unites the Church in the bond of Charity; and, 3. Assures us of everlasting life.

Deserts are hot and dry, with no food or vegetation. Human beings are quite simply unable to live in such habitats without perishing from dehydration and starvation. The chosen family of God, Israel, journeyed both literally through the desert, but also gave us a metaphor for this life. The sin of our first parents triggered drastic consequences of division, murder, and scarcity. Sin transformed a world, characterized by the garden of Eden, into a world experienced as a desert. The rich and luscious garden in which God had placed Adam and Eve was replaced by a land “cursed … because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19). We find ourselves in a world where hope seemingly has run dry, as humanity desperately searches for the bread that will satisfy its hunger for peace, rest, and brotherhood. This thirst of humanity is taken up by Jesus on the Cross when he cries out: “I thirst!” In that exclamation and prayer of the God-man, God has heard our prayer. God’s response to our spiritual thirst is the gift of the sweet river of his blood, given under the appearance of wine, and the strong sustenance of his broken body, given under the appearance of bread.

At the Last Supper, on the night when he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us” (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47).

The only response to transform the world from a desert back to a garden is to perpetuate the love of the Cross which means to receive and become the love of Jesus by receiving well the Holy Eucharist. Only by receiving the Eucharist are we able to keep the new commandment of the Christian dispensation: love one another, just as I have loved you. Only by receiving the Holy Eucharist, and keeping the command of love, is the Church able to stay united in the bond of peace. The Holy Eucharist is quite rightly the end goal of all ecumenical longing, and dialogue, and the true protagonist in its unfolding. It is only because the Eucharist is really Jesus Christ, and his love poured out on the cross, that we can understand the import and urgency of Jesus’ own words: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” Participation in the Cross of Jesus Christ is the necessary condition for enjoying the fruits of the Resurrection. That Jesus is not speaking figuratively is witnessed to by the fact that he allows disciples to leave his company, because “this is a hard teaching.” This is the true scandal of the Christian faith: the Cross of Christ, before us until the very end of time in the Eucharistic Lord, is the criterion of our love, the force of our unity, and the condition of our eternity. We can cry out with the early Christians, persecuted in their day by a brutal empire seeking to crush their holy longings: Sine Domenica non possumus! (Without Sunday, we cannot live!) May we all recommit ourselves to weekly and frequent reception of the most Holy Eucharist, so that we learn to love anew, build unity, and find eternal life. 

ILLUSTRATIONS:

(Courtesy to Fr. Tony Kadavil and others) 

1: Communion on the moon:  

The Lord's Supper ensures that we can remember Jesus from any place. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 1969. Most remember astronaut Neil Armstrong's first words as he stepped onto the moon's surface: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." But few know about the first meal eaten on the moon. Dennis Fisher reports that Buzz Aldrin, the NASA Astronaut had taken aboard the spacecraft a tiny pyx provided by his Catholic pastor. Aldrin sent a radio broadcast to Earth asking listeners to contemplate the events of the day and give thanks. Then, blacking out the broadcast for privacy, Aldrin read, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." Then, silently, he gave thanks for their successful journey to the moon and received Jesus in the Holy Eucharist surrendering moon to Jesus. Next he descended on the moon and walked on it with Neil Armstrong. (Dan Gulley: "Communion on the Moon": Our Daily Bread: June/July/August, 2007). His actions remind us that in the Lord's Supper, God's children can share the life of Jesus from any place on Earth — and even from the moon. God is everywhere, and our worship should reflect this reality. In Psalm 139 we are told that wherever we go, God is intimately present with us. Buzz Aldrin celebrated that experience on the surface of the moon. Thousands of miles from earth, he took time to commune with the One who created, redeemed, and established fellowship with him.
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2: The greatest work of art in St. Peter’s Basilica:  

"One of the seminarians who gives tours of St. Peter’s told me of an interesting incident. He was leading a group of Japanese tourists who knew absolutely nothing of our faith. With particular care he explained the great masterpieces of art, sculpture and architecture. He finally concluded at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel trying his best to explain quickly what it was. As the group dispersed, an elderly man, who had been particularly attentive stayed behind, and said, 'Pardon me. Would you explain again this “Blessed Sacrament?”' Our student did, after which the man exclaimed, 'Ah, if this is so, what is in this chapel is a greater work of art than anything else in this basilica.'”

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3. “I will not permit Christ to return to Albania as long as I am in charge.”  

Mother Teresa was given a reception by the cruel communist dictator Enver Hoxha who ruled Albania for 40 years from 1945 to 1985. He imposed atheism as the official religion in 1967. The possession of a Bible or cross often meant a ten-year prison term. Welcoming Mother Teresa in 1985, he stated that he appreciated her world-wide works of charity, and then added, “But I will not permit Christ to return to Albania as long as I am in charge.” In her reply after thanking the president for the reception Mother said, “Mr. President, you are wrong. I have brought not only the love of Christ into my native land but also the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist right into your presidential palace. I am allowed to carry Jesus in a pyx during my visit of this communist country where public worship is a crime. I keep Jesus in the consecrated host in my pocket. Jesus will surely return to this country very soon.”  

Hoxha was gone a few days later on April 11, 1985. Communist rule collapsed in Albania in 1992 and Christians and Muslims reopened their churches and mosques for worship. Finally the Lord of the Eucharist has ruled the hearts and minds of the people of Albania. 

When push comes to that famous shove, it doesn't matter what Mother Teresa or you or I believe about the Eucharist. What does matter is what Christ Himself believes about it. For the answer one must go to the record.

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4. The Eucharistic piety that converted St. Elizabeth Ann Seton:  

Two hundred years ago, a beautiful young Episcopalian woman accompanied her husband, a merchant, to Italy, leaving four of their five children at home with family members. They had sailed for Italy hoping that perhaps the change in climate might help her husband, whose failing business had eventually affected his health adversely. Tragically he died in Liverno. The grieving young woman was warmly received by an Italian family, business acquaintances of her deceased husband. She stayed with them for three months before she could arrange to return to America. The young widow was very impressed by the catholic faith of her host family, especially their devotion to the holy Eucharist: their frequent attendance at Mass, the reverence with which they received Holy Communion, the awe they showed toward the Blessed Sacrament on feast days when the Eucharist was carried in procession. She found her broken heart healed by a hunger for this mysterious presence of the Lord, and, upon returning home, requested instruction in Catholic Faith. Soon after being received into the Church, she described her first reception of the Lord in the Eucharist as the happiest moment of her life. It was in St. Peter’s Square on September 14, 1975, Pope Paul VI canonized this woman, Elizabeth Ann Seton, as the first native born saint of the United states. The Eucharist for her was a sign and cause of union with God and the Church.

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5. A message of unity and sacrificial love:  

The Eucharist, (the body and blood of Christ) teaches us the importance of community, the bond that results from this sacrifice. Just as numerous grains of wheat are pounded together to make the host, and many grapes are crushed together to make the wine, so we become unified in this sacrifice. Our Lord chose these elements in order to show us that we ought to be united with one another and to allow and work with the Holy Spirit in transforming us into Our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the head and we are the body. Together we are one. That which unites us is our willingness to sacrifice our time and talents for our fellow members in Christ’s mystical body. This is symbolized by our sharing in the same bread and the same cup. Hence, Holy Communion should strengthen our sense of unity and love.

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6. The duty of preparing properly to receive Holy Communion:  

We have tarnished God’s image within us through acts of impurity, injustice and disobedience. Hence, there is always need for repentance, and a need for the sacramental confession of grave sins before we receive Holy Communion. We should remember the warning given by St. Paul: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves." [1 Cor. 11:27-9]. Hence, let us receive Holy Communion with fervent love and respect -- not merely as a matter of routine. St. Paul is speaking also of the mystical body of Christ, i.e., the people of God gathered at the altar. Such a union, plainly, means that our outward piety towards the consecrated Bread and Wine cannot coexist with rudeness, unkindness, slander, cruelty, gossiping or any other breach of charity toward our brothers and sisters.  

7. Let us become Christ-bearers and conveyers: By receiving Holy Communion we become Christ-bearers as Mary was, with the duty of conveying Christ to others at home and in the workplace, as love, mercy, forgiveness and humble and sacrificial service.

As we celebrate this great feast of faith, let us worship what St. Thomas Aquinas did not hesitate to call, "the greatest miracle that Christ ever worked on earth ...... my Body ........ my Blood". Before the greatness of this mystery, let us exclaim with St. Augustine, "O sacrament of devotion! O sign of unity! O bond of charity!" Let us also repeat St. Thomas Aquinas' prayer of devotion in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament: "O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine!"

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8.  “All we really need in our convent is the tabernacle.”  

The former archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, loves to tell the story of the arrival of Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity to open their house in the city. Poor Archbishop Quinn had gone to great efforts to make sure that their convent was, while hardly opulent, quite comfortable. He recalls how Mother Teresa arrived and immediately ordered the carpets removed, the telephones, except for one, pulled out of the wall, the beds, except for the mattresses taken away, and on and on. Explained Mother Teresa to the baffled archbishop, “All we really need in our convent is the tabernacle” (Msgr. Timothy M Dolan in “Priests of the Third Millennium” 2000 p. 218).

9. Blessed Imelda:
 
Blessed Imelda, the Patron saint of First communicants: Blessed Imelda Lambertini had a remarkable experience of this love. She lived in Bologna, Italy, in the 1300s. She wanted to be a nun from the time she was a little girl, and she joined that Dominican convent at the age of nine, to better prepare herself for the day when she would take the habit. Her greatest desire was to receive Holy Communion, but in those days you had to be at least twelve-years- old to do so. Imelda begged for an exception to the rule, but the chaplain refused. She kept praying for special permission. Her prayers were miraculously answered on the Feast of the Ascension in 1333. After Mass, she stayed in her place in the chapel, where one of the nuns was putting away the sacred vessels. Suddenly, the nun heard a noise and turned towards Imelda. Hovering in mid air in front of Imelda as she knelt in prayer was a sacred host, the Blessed Eucharist, shining with a bright and forceful light. The frightened nun ran to find the chaplain. By the time the chaplain arrived, the rest of the nuns and other onlookers had crowded, awe-struck, into the chapel. When the priest saw the shining, hovering host, he put on his vestments, went over to the girl, took the miraculous host in his hands, and gave her Holy Communion. Some minutes later, after the crowd had dispersed, the mother superior came over to Imelda to call her for breakfast. She found the girl still kneeling, with a smile on her face. But Imelda was dead. She had died of love, in ecstasy after receiving Christ in the Eucharist. He had longed to be with her even more than she had longed to be with him. Blessed Imelda's body is incorrupt, and you can still see it today in the Church where she is interred, in Bologna. She is the patron saint of First Holy Communicants. (E- Priest).

10. “I would like to say Mass.”

Dominic Tang, the courageous Chinese archbishop was imprisoned for twenty-one years for nothing more than his loyalty to Christ and his one, true Church. After five years of solitary confinement in a windowless damp cell, his Jailers came to tell him he could leave it for a few hours, to do whatever he wanted. Five years of solitary confinement and he had a couple of hours to do what he wanted! What would it be? A hot shower? A change of cloths? Certainly a long walk outside? A chance to call or write to family? What will it be? Asked the jailer. : “I would like to say Mass,” replied Archbishop Tang. (Msgr. Timothy M Dolan in “Priests of the Third Millennium” 2000 p. 216). The Vietnamese Jesuit Joseph Nguyen-Cong Doan, who spent nine years in labor camps in Vietnam, relates how he was finally able to say Mass when a fellow priest -prisoner shared some of his own smuggled supplies. “That night, when the other prisoners were asleep, lying on the floor of my cell, I celebrated Mass with tears of joy. My altar was my blanket, my prison cloths my vestments. But I felt myself at the heart of humanity and of the whole of creation.” (Ibid, p. 224). Today’s feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus constantly calls us beyond ourselves in sacrificial love for others.